Putting out the cigarette ain’t easy
Smoking and quitting smoking has been a hot topic for decades. We know smoking isn’t good for us, we know there are many health implications and we know there are ways to help quit smoking. What we don’t talk about very often is how this process differs for everyone and while quitting may be easy for some, it can be incredibly difficult for others. So today let’s take a dive into the world of smoking and ways to help you put down the cigarette.
Smoking dependence typically develops from addiction to nicotine which is naturally found in tobacco. Nicotine interacts on different cells in our brain (called nicotinic cholinergic receptors) that lead to produce the feeling of pleasure and reward through the release of a neurotransmitter called dopamine. With repeated exposure, we build a tolerance to this (meaning we need more nicotine to cause the same effect) therefore leading to physical dependence. This is our body adapting to this new normal of nicotine levels. Physical dependence is influenced by the act of smoking as well as environmental factors such as smoking cues, friends who smoke, stress and product advertising. For example, if someone typically smokes outside with coworkers when it is nice outside then being around those friends and the nice weather may trigger an urge to smoke. This is because the same reward pathways in our brain that produce the pleasure feeling when we smoke can also be triggered through these environmental factors. Now when someone stops smoking or goes to sleep at night people begin to experience withdrawal because their body is not having the same nicotine levels they are now used to. Withdrawal can cause anxiety, stress, irritability, hunger, and difficulty thinking. Of course, no one enjoys any of those feelings therefore typically people smoke again to prevent this withdrawal from happening. To conclude, our body becomes rewired to adapt to smoking causing it to be very difficult to stop as shown in the picture below.
In Canada, 15.8% of Canadians aged 12 and older smoke cigarettes either daily or occasionally as of 2018. Most people begin smoking in their teenage years meaning their body is adapting and becoming dependent over a long period of time. Not to worry! Here are two great things to know when it comes to quitting: 1) you are not alone in this and 2) It may be difficult to stop, but it IS possible.
I am sure you have seen the many advertisements about why smoking is bad and how it can cause all sorts of health issues, but one thing I want to emphasize is that it is NEVER TOO LATE TO QUIT. Even if you have been smoking for decades, quitting at any time is better than not quitting at all. This is the best way to improve your health and though we cannot necessarily reverse the damage already caused, we can stop anymore ongoing damage. In just 20 minutes after quitting your blood pressure can drop to a level similar to what it was before your last cigarette and in 8 hours your carbon monoxide levels in your blood goes back to normal. By 24 hours your risk of having a heart attack starts to drop, so imagine all the health benefits you can have each day you abstain from smoking. Now health is just one reason, but this can also help you financially by saving money on cigarettes and decreasing premiums for life and house insurance. Lastly, this can give you more time to spend with your family by increasing your life expectancy by YEARS!
I want to talk to you about the stages of quitting and how to start.
Stages of change:
- Not thinking about quitting, don’t see a need to change and not willing to change
- Considering quitting in the future, recognizing consequences of smoking and open to receiving information about smoking
- Committed to quit and are starting to take small steps forward
- Taking steps to change, and actively trying to stop smoking but not yet stable
- Initials goals met and working to maintain gains
These stages are completely normal and are a way people can help support you through your journey.
Quitting smoking can start whatever day you want! The first step to quitting is planning your quit day and getting support. Pick a day you want to quit and prepare for that day. Mark your calendar, calculate your savings, write down your reasons to quit, write down your triggers, and plan on how you will deal with cravings. This can help you be prepared for the process. Lastly, determine your support systems. This can be family and friends as well as smoking hotlines and counsellors or even pharmacists – whatever works best for you.
This is a loaded question as there are many ways to quit, but ultimately it is about what works best for you.
Nicotine replacement therapy:
Each option has different side effects, different directions, different doses depending on cigarette use, etc., so this is a great place to ask your PHARMACIST to determine which method is best for you.
- Gum – chew and park method is vital!
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin) – prescription medication
- Varenicline (Champix) – prescription medication
As you can see there are a number of options here and some of these can be combined. A pharmacist can help you determine which option works best for your cravings and your lifestyle. Our goal is to help you achieve your goal and we are here to help cheer you on the way.
What to do now
If you have read all the way through congratulations! I know this is a lot of information to absorb. I hope some of this has helped you understand why people struggle to quit smoking and ways we can be successful in smoking. Now here are some great resources so you can begin your journeys to be smoke-free!
- Quit coach: 1-877-513-5333 toll-free Monday – Thursday: 7 am – 8pm, Friday: 7 am – 5 pm, or Saturday – Sunday: 8 am – 4 pm
- Text iQuit to 123456
- Quitmap.ca for support services
Or call us at Exchange District Pharmacy at 204-942-0573 or come on in to 286 McDermot Ave Monday- Friday 9:30 am – 5:30 pm to speak with our pharmacist!
- SRtablet Hcl. replacement therapy: Patch Other forms of NRT Bupropion Varenicline.
- On the road to quitting: Guide to becoming a non–smoker – Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/publications/healthy-living/road-quitting-guide-becoming-non-smoker.html. Accessed April 23, 2020.
- Build My Quit Plan | Smokefree. https://smokefree.gov/build-your-quit-plan. Accessed April 23, 2020.
- Steps to Manage Quit Day | Smokefree. https://smokefree.gov/quit-smoking/getting-started/steps-to-manage-quit-day. Accessed April 23, 2020.
- 5 Stages to Quitting – Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/health-concerns/tobacco/quit-smoking/faqs-facts/five-stages-quitting.html. Accessed April 23, 2020.
- Benefits of quitting smoking – Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/smoking-tobacco/quit-smoking/benefits-quitting.html. Accessed April 23, 2020.
- Vaping and quitting smoking – Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/smoking-tobacco/vaping/smokers.html. Accessed April 23, 2020.
- Smoking, 2018. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-625-x/2019001/article/00006-eng.htm. Accessed April 23, 2020.
- Quitting Smoking | CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/cessation/quitting/index.htm. Accessed April 23, 2020.
- Benowitz NL. Nicotine addiction. N Engl J Med. 2010;362(24):2295-2303. doi:10.1056/NEJMra0809890